The first sign that the Weird Al Yankovic bio-pic was going to be unusual was when it was announced that Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, was cast in the starring role of the titular song spoofer who found fame in the ‘80s with parodies of top pop songs. Radcliffe, who has gone to great lengths to distance himself artistically from his star-making turn as the world’s most beloved child wizard, has marked his career with a string of offbeat, indie films since the last Harry Potter film, but none quite as offbeat as Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. Radcliffe’s casting as one of the most unusual, unique and offbeat entertainers of the late twentieth century set Twitter ablaze back when it was announced, most people agreeing that there was no way the stiff Radcliffe had either the acting chops nor the comedic skills to pull it off. And yet, here we are, and whaddya know…Radcliffe is not only great as Weird Al, but his casting looks to have been just the first brilliant decision made by director Eric Appel, who also produced and co-wrote Weird, along with Al Yankovic himself.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is as gloriously silly as Yankovic himself, who plays a small role as, aptly enough, a buttoned-up music exec. The screenplay is inventive and fresh, spoofing the bio-pic genre, taking a page from Weird Al himself, in ways that are not only clever and unpredictable, but side-splittingly hilarious and, yes, really really weird.
I have to admit, I was expecting a Ben Stiller or Austin Powers-esque approach to this subject, but, instead, Appel and Yankovic craft a film that doesn’t revel in its immaturity and stupidity, instead, it embraces its sweetness and lack of raunch or rudeness. It doesn’t dumb down either the subject or the audience, but the genuine irreverence is boldly on display from the very first scene. Weird feels much more like Airplane! than Zoolander and that’s a really great thing.
If you are skeptical about this film, either because of Radcliffe or the fact that it’s a Roku Channel original, or the fact it was produced by Funny or Die, let me be the first to tell you that Weird is not only a good movie, it is a great movie. Radcliffe is awesome, committing all the way with a reckless abandon and delivering every scene with energy and passion. Just as good is an absolutely scene-stealing performance from Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Madonna with a delicious fervor—you can tell she’s having an absolute blast.
But it is the screenplay and the direction that are the stars here, as Weird surprises you at every turn, a delightfully silly ode to following your passion and believing yourself to be whatever you want to be. And yes, there is a nice collection of some of Weird Al’s greatest hits sprinkled throughout the film, just enough to remind you that there was a glorious time when we didn’t take ourselves so seriously.
There’s absolutely nothing to take seriously in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, except the fact that it’s one of the best films of the year. If you’re looking for a smile, find the Roku Channel (it’s there, somewhere) and submerge yourself in the silliness.